Philip Roth has died at the age of 85. The early days of this site are filled with my reviews and thoughts on many of his books. Indeed, one of my first posts, from July 4, 2008, was on his 1979 novel The Ghost Writer. I read six more of his novels in 2008, and several more in 2009 and 2010. I remember the period well. I was living in South Orange, New Jersey, near the Weequahic neighborhood where Roth grew up and where he set a lot of his fiction.
The last book Roth published was 2010’s Nemesis, and the last time I read any of his novels was early 2011 when I sat down with 1993’s Operation Shylock. While I still have several of his books sitting unread on my shelf, I have been wary over the years as Roth and his work aged and as I changed my own perspectives. Then, in late 2017, I read The Library of America’s final Roth volume, Why Write? Collected Nonfiction 1960 – 2013. Reading that reminded me of Roth’s verve, his fearlessness, his often uncomfortable explorations of his own life and of American culture. I wrote:
Roth’s critics have their ammunition and I do think some of it is aimed true. However, despite his failings and blindspots, Roth is an author who took long and hard looks in the mirror and at his America and culture and he wasn’t afraid to lay it all out in his fiction.
I would like to revisit some of my favorites. His Nathan Zuckerman books are among my favorite books. I’d like to check out the few I haven’t read, like 2004’s The Plot Against America, which feels more important in 2018.
I hope you’ll feel welcome to share your thoughts on Roth’s work and your experiences reading his books. And if you need any recommendations or wish to read my own thoughts, here is a rundown of his work, with links to the ones I’ve reviewed on The Mookse and the Gripes: